Russia: Virginia-based private soldiers in Ukraine
Anti-war demonstrators hold signs that read 'Crimea is not Russia' during a protest action in Simferopol, Ukraine, on Friday, March 14, 2014.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Have security operatives from a Chesapeake-based company been injected into the tense standoff between Ukraine and Russia?
That's what Russia says.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said about 150 Americans supplied by the private military company Greystone Ltd., a former affiliate of Blackwater, have been operating in southeastern Ukraine disguised as Ukrainian soldiers.
"The organizers and participants of this provocation assume responsibility for creating a huge threat to the rights, freedoms and the lives of innocent citizens of Ukraine and to the stability of the Ukrainian state," the ministry said, warning of imminent civil war.
The report has been picked up by several news outlets, including ABC and the Wall Street Journal, both of which quoted a Greystone representative denying the allegation.
A call to the company this morning was not immediately returned.
According to its website, Greystone began in 2004 as an affiliate of Blackwater, now known as Academi, which gained notoriety supplying private security operatives from its compound in Moyock, N.C., in support of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When Blackwater was sold by founder Erik Prince in 2010, Greystone was acquired by its current management and now operates as a standalone provider of aviation and protective support services and training, according to the website.
The company has offices in Chesapeake, Bermuda and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the website, Greystone has recently been awarded contracts for executive protection services in Russia and the Caucasus region of Eurasia, southeast of Ukraine.
Four former Blackwater security guards are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges arising from a 2007 shooting in Baghdad in which 17 Iraqi civilians died.